Duration ca. 32 minutes
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, et emitte caelitus lucis tuae radium. Veni, pater pauperum, veni, dator munerum veni, lumen cordium.
Come, Holy Spirit, send forth the heavenly radiance of your light. Come, father of the poor, come giver of gifts, come, light of the heart.
Kyrie eleison; Christe eleison; Kyrie eleison.
Lord have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.
Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te,
gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those of good will. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you,
we give thanks to you for your great glory.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth; pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts; Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis.
Blessed are those who come in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
About the Work
The Missa Pax (Peace Mass) was commissioned and premiered by Noel Edison, James Campbell (clarinet) and the Elora Festival Singers for the 30th anniversaries of two significant music festivals in Ontario (Canada), The Elora Festival and The Festival of the Sound. It represents two aspects of my past, one part beginning with my early years growing up singing the high mass as an Anglican boy chorister and later as a young adult engaged as an activist. These two early stages left a deep impression on me: my formative years in the church still resonate deeply and often serve as a starting-point for musical expression; my years as an activist, regularly attending protests and radically engaging with concerns of social justice, shaped my philosophy and caused me to see my childhood experiences with a different perspective. The Peace Mass is an attempt to come back to my church roots and to use music as a way to reinterpret the liturgical tradition, to reconcile these very disparate worlds, to give the old habits new expression and new vitality.
How to go about reconciling these two world-views? The church perspective often looks to ritual practice and tradition for clarity. The activist viewpoint often reacts to the church, adopting a substantial (and often valid) critique of how church institutions have used dogma and ritual to repeatedly abuse the public trust. I admit that for a number of years, I felt a strong compulsion to distance myself from any association with the well known church-related institutional injustices, past and present.
So, instead of singing the mass, I went to the streets. Attending political demonstrations was a significant eye- opener. At the larger protests (sometimes as many as 200,000 demonstrators), I remember feeling disheartened to experience the disciplined resolve of a large contingent of peaceful demonstrators thrown off-the-rails by a handful of rowdy outliers. With the help of this violent catalyst, what began as a peaceful and powerful collective energy often digressed into a chaotic panic of teargas and water cannons.
While these large-scale demonstrations did little to change the world, they were powerful experiences from a personal and ideological point-of-view. There were many similarities to church in the use of music – the aesthetic was different but the similarity was in the function: drumming raised adrenaline levels and focused the energy of the crowd towards a common goal; ten’s of thousands of people chanting “So-So-So Solidarity” and marching in an unscripted, yet orderly way. This gave me a feeling that I was in church again, but this time on the streets, and initially led me to throw my hands in the air in an acknowledgment that both contexts were a product of crowd- think mechanisms, essentially dogmatic, self-indulgent, and insular. I probably would have held on to this cynicism, if it were not for a specific transformative experience involving both the activist and church communities.
The transformative event was called “The Sword and the Cross” and took place on Good Friday, 1999 outside the doors of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in downtown Toronto (Canada). By coincidence, this location was familiar to me. I had attended this church for many years as a youngster. I can still remember the vast towering Gothic arches and stained glass windows in the sanctuary and the old-fashioned gymnasium with adjacent upstairs Sunday school classrooms, opening onto a narrow surrounding balcony. In 1999, I found myself participating as an activist, in a protest designed to bring attention to the contradictions held within the church’s just-war theology, as represented in the World War I monument, housed just outside the church gym, where I’d attended Sunday School. The monument was notable for a sword that was embedded at the apex of the cross.
The demonstration was organized by three elderly men, each with close ties to the church community: Don Heap an Anglican Minister and former member of Toronto City Council, Bob Holmes a Catholic Priest, and Leonard Desroches a theologian and well-known church resource person for the exploration of non-violence. The attendance at the event was small, probably under 100 demonstrators. The crowd marched peacefully through the Queen’s Park area of the city and eventually arrived at the war memorial. We sang a number of hymns and then these three older gentlemen, wearing their liturgical robes attempted to climb over the wrought iron spiked fence with the intent to physically remove the metal sword from the massive stone cross. These three organizers had spent years in prayer and preparation for this single act of civil disobedience.
The symbolism of the act resonated deeply with the crowd of supporters but also was not lost on the assembly of roughly 30 police officers, some of whom might have felt foolish as they held their batons and shields. The po- lice arrested the three demonstrators on charges of “mischief over $5000.” The memory that remained with me, more than anything else from the experience, was the image of a younger police officer, leaving his riot garb aside and in an act of kindness, gently helping the three frail demonstrators back over the fence. We sang the well-know protest song, “We shall overcome” as they were escorted into the police van.
This experience, more than any other, served as a defining moment, a turning point. I came to acknowledge that much of the way I saw and experienced the world was influenced by the recurring themes of the ancient liturgy. I became aware that my attempts to engage with the activits’ critique were experienced largely through a reactionary guilt-complex, an impulse to separate myself from my roots. The Sword and the Cross protest and other experiences like it, would eventually provide the inspiration for the artistic project presented here, an attempt to re-enter the sanctuary and reconcile certain aspects of my church tradition with a healthy criticism waged against it; that is, to put two loaded words together: MISSA PAX.
“Drawing from his years of singing in an Anglican boys’ choir, Corlis turned instinctively to the classic Latin Missa Pax text, “inspired by the secrets embedded in its timeless message,” explained the composer, who was present for the work’spremier. The first notes, pierced from inside the piano’s upper register, initiated a haunting invocation of spirit (Veni, Sancte Spiritus) – unison female chant, with swirling piano arpeggios and clarinet countermelody. This smouldering conguring of heavenly radiance continued into the Kyrie only to finally cut loose into a radient, full-bodied Christe Eleison plea for mercy.
The audience reaction was instantaneous. Leaping to their feet – the collective excitement communicated something extraordinary – a very special moment with a very special piece, and a secure sense that local boy, Tim Corlis, had arrived on the international stage . . .”
-Steven Preece, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, July 17, 2009)